Thursday, September 17, 2009

Biden in Iraq, US immigration tries to kick a widow and young mother out of the country

This spring, President Obama reversed himself and decided to block the release of photographs showing the abuse of detainees by the U.S. military. Now, having lost in two lower federal courts, the administration is seeking review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices should decline the invitation.

That's the opening of the Los Angeles Times' editorial "The battle over detainee abuse photos" and noted at the request of a friend with the paper but at the top of this entry because the topic (I think) is important. This week, US Vice President Joe Biden has been in Iraq. Scott Wilson's "Biden Pushes Iraqi Leaders On Vote Law, Oil-Bid Perks" (Washington Post) reports that "Biden pressed Iraqi leaders Wednesday to approve as quickly as possible legislation that establishes rules for the planned January general election and to make the next round of bids to develop Iraqi oil concessions more attractive to foreign investors." Edwin Chen (Bloomberg News) adds, "In back-to-back meetings with top Iraqi officials while in Baghdad yesterday, Biden addressed issues such as job creation and regulations that he told them would lead to greater interest from companies that want to do business in the oil-rich nation, according to an administration official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity."

Vice President Joe Biden

David Rising (AP) notes, "Over his three-day visit, Biden's main focus was expected to be plans for January elections and the ongoing violence in Iraq's north. Biden last visited Iraq on July 4 to spend U.S. Independence Day with the troops. During that trip he also met with his son, Beau, who is an Army captain serving in Iraq." Alsumaria reports:

After meeting with Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and other officials, Biden pointed out that there needs to be done more hard work in order to reach a prosperous future in the country.
Americans and Iraqis have greatly sacrificed since six years and a half while security forces charged of protecting the people have manifested high endurance and resistance in face of division and destruction.

The White House issued the following last night:

PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (As Translated) In the name of God, most compassionate, most merciful, I welcome Vice President Biden in his visit to Baghdad. This is not his first visit. It is a continuation and a follow-up of previous visits and a follow-up on the issues of mutual interest to both countries.

And as in each time, these were beneficial and positive discussions and that continue with the discussions held previously during our previous visits or also during my visit to Washington. And we -- he affirmed further the need to deepen the positive relationship between the two countries and taking them and advancing them.

We have discussed the steps that has been -- have been taken so far with regards to the Status of Forces Agreement that are so far going on with a high credibility and taking their normal course. We also discussed the issues within the Strategic Framework Agreement which we have very high hopes and expectations.

And within the Strategic Framework Agreement, touching that issue, we focused on all the aspects of cooperation -- economic, political, cultural, scientific and commercial -- and the ways to foster and to support further the political process, this political process that has cemented the democracy in Iraq. And we also talked about the various challenges that we face.

And in steps on the implementation of the Strategic Framework Agreement, we had started discussions early on in Washington during the work and the proceedings of the high coordinating -- coordination committee between the two countries. We talked about that and we talked about -- through which there was this conference that will be held on October 20th and 21st in Washington. We discussed that and the need for this conference to be a success in order to provide investments, opportunities for the companies and also in order to provide -- and we spoke about how to advance the various legislative reform needed with regard to investments and so forth.

In that endeavor, the National Iraqi Authority for Investments will be putting forth some lists -- lists about the needs for types of contracts and the type of investments that this conference would attract for the big corporations, the capital and the merchants to know what we need. And we ask also from the various relevant ministries in Iraq to put forth such lists to define other needs in contracting and opportunities.

And we also focused on the way to fight terrorism, this threat that is threatening the security and the peace -- international security and peace. And we also talked about our ongoing efforts to pursue the terrorists who hit the lives of people and who hit the infrastructure.

And once more I welcome Vice President Biden, thank him for his visit, and hope for further good relations -- mutual bilateral relations between the two countries.

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you once again for the welcome. I'm delighted to be back in Baghdad to discuss with the Prime Minister and his advisers issues of mutual interest. And I think we concluded some very productive talks.

And once again, Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you for your hospitality as well as your leadership. And I want to assure -- I've assured the Prime Minister that the United States' commitment to strengthen our relationship with Iraq remains strong. President Obama emphasized that when the Prime Minister visited in July, and I repeat it again today: Our goal is to work in partnership with Iraq to help the Iraqi people build a country that's sovereign and stable and self-reliant -- and they're well on their way. I want -- we want a long-term relationship based upon mutual respect.

And we look at the accomplishments of the last several years and in recent months -- I think we're making steady progress mutually toward that goal. We're determined to stand with our Iraqi friends as they address the challenges that remain and that --

PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I'm very tired. (Laughter.)

(The interpreter translates.)

My compliment to the interpreter. (Laughter.)

At the end of -- at the end of June, we took a very important step by transferring security responsibility in Iraqi cities and towns to the Iraqi Security Forces. This transition was part of the security agreement concluded between our countries last November. And in accordance with that agreement, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi Security Forces.

And we'll also move ahead in other aspects of the security agreement by removing all U.S. combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August 2010 and all remaining U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

As the terrorist bombings on August 19th so vividly demonstrated, the enemies of national unity in Iraq are ready to murder innocent civilians as they attempt to re-ignite sectarian conflict. Once again, on behalf of President Obama and the American people, we extend our condolences to the families of the victims, and condemn such attacks. And we are confident -- we are confident -- the terrorists will fail.

The Iraqi people and security forces charged with protecting them have shown great courage, resilience and restraint in the face of this danger. And they'll continue to reject the forces of division and destruction. I'm confident of that, as well.

We also discussed the Prime Minister's efforts of his government to strengthen national unity. The Prime Minister was kind enough to discuss with us several of the issues that are in need of resolution if the Iraqis are to achieve the bright future that they have fought so hard for and deserve.

As the Prime Minister also mentioned, and mentioned just a moment ago, we discussed the status of the Strategic Framework Agreement. This agreement lays the groundwork for a strong and long-lasting relationship between our countries in cultural, educational, economic and scientific fields. And it will, in our view, allow us to partner in improving governance and delivering services and promoting the rule of law, as well.

The Strategic Framework Agreement is the foundation of our relationship, and we look forward to joining our Iraqi friends in developing and carrying out programs that will benefit both our countries in the near future and the long term.

We're expanding our economic partnerships, and we very much look forward to the Iraqi Business and Investment Conference that was also referenced that is going to be held in Washington next month and which we believe will help bring together American and Iraqi businesses for additional economic activity in Iraq.

Iraqis as, as I might add, as well as Americans have made many sacrifices in the last six and a half years, and much hard work remains. But under the Prime Minister's leadership and the efforts of the Iraqi people, Iraq is on the road to a better future. And we remain committed to cooperating with the Iraqi government and people as they work together to create a peaceful and prosperous Iraq.

Again, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your hospitality.

Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal) details Biden's agenda for today, "On Thursday, Mr. Biden is scheduled to travel to the Kurdish north to hold talks with regional president Masoud Barzani. Tensions between the semi-autonomous Kurdish government and Baghdad have worried U.S. officials, who fear the disputes could turn violent."

Meanwhile Kristin M. Hall (AP) reports on military widow Hotaru Ferschke whose husband, Sgt. Michael Ferschke, died serving in Iraq August 10, 2008. He was shot dead during a house search. He and Hoatru had married a month before and she gave birth to their son, Michael "Mikey" Ferschke III, eight months ago. They married by proxy which means a ceremony "on seperate continents" and with his dying a month later, immigration officials are insisting the marriage isn't valid because, get this, it was not consummated.

A child would argue the relationship was. More importantly, immigration isn't supposed to be concerned with consummation. They're required to make sure that marriages are valid but as to whether or not a couple actually has sex? That's really none of the government's business. There are couples -- if you caught that bad 20/20 'medical' show, you know this -- who do not have sex. The article notes talk that the law needs to be updated but it actually needs to be tossed out and any judge worth his or her salt would move to do so quickly. It's creating a barrier that's not present in other legally recognized marriages in the US.

Hall reports that Hotaru and Michael spent "13 months" together "before he left for Iraq in April 2008. He had proposed and they were trying to conceive a baby before he deployed, Hotaur Ferschke said." Approximately two weeks after he deployed, Hotaru discovered she was pregnant and the couple then moved quickly to have the proxy marriage. This was to be sure Michael's military benefits covered the pregnancy expenses and, you can be sure, this was also to be sure -- for both Michael and Hotaur -- that their relationship was legally recognized.

Now immigration is threatening deportation. Her mother-in-law, Robin Ferschke states, "She's like my daughter. I know my child chose the perfect wife and mother of his child." US House Rep John Duncan has a bill that needs a sponsor in the Senate. Apparently Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander are too busy to sign on. (Tennessee is the family's state.)

September 11, 2009, Daniel J. Lakemacher finally received his discharge as a conscientious objector. Antiwar Radio's Scott Horton interviews him here.

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